NOCTURNAL SOJOURN

Submitted into Contest #224 in response to: Start your story with someone saying “I can’t sleep.”... view prompt

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Kids American Contemporary

NOCTURNAL SOJOURN

BY WADE DOUGLASS

11/17/23 


"I can't sleep," whispered Lexis staring at the ceiling in the dim glow of the moon filtering through the curtains. 


“You ALWAYS say that!” Yawned Remi, her eye lids opened to half-mast. “And ALWAYS at 3:00 AM!” she scowled, having just turned to stare at the clock-face on the night stand. She spoke in a clear but muted whisper so as not to awaken their parents sleeping in the bedroom across the hall. She sighed and then rubbed her eyes with the back of their right hand in a half-hearted attempt to chase away the lingering memories of sleep. She was certain that sleep would not be returning any time soon.


“And YOU always do THAT!” Lexis replied, in an emphatic whisper.


“Do what?”


“THAT!! Lexis, raised her head quickly in a dramatic manner, flamboyantly whipped her head to the right to stare at the clock-face just visible beyond Remi’s chin. She bugged her eyes out - her final gesture to bold the visual font she created for Remi’s benefit. 


For Alexis, sleep had become elusive lately, slipping away like water through cupped hands. The city outside slept, shrouded in darkness. The night held a certain stillness, broken only by the occasional rustle of leaves outside the window. It was a

declaration more to the silence than to anyone else in the room, yet it marked another chapter in their story that unfolded in the quiet hours before dawn.


For reasons she could not entirely explain, Alexis found solace in the quiet stillness of the pre-dawn morning. 


Remi, on the other hand, did not find sleep illusive at all. For Remi the darkness, the stillness, and the occasional natural sounds of the night created an ambiance ideally suited to finding her solace in further sleep. In this regard, her cup was full. This was a morning Remi would have preferred to sleep longer and awaken to the warmth of the rising of the sun and the chirping of birds.


Despite their bickering, both were fully awake now, and whether admitting it or not, both were anxious to resume their nightly sojourn. 


Neither girl left the house any time others were likely to be out and about. Not because it was dangerous… Not exactly, and not in the way most people interpret danger.. That was just the way it was…..always had been…. always would be…..? 


They swung their legs over the edge of the bed, the cool floor chilling their bare feet. They dressed. Leaving the confines of the bedroom, they crept through the silent house. The floor creaked softly under each step, a lullaby of the night or a possible alarm that would wake their parents. Driven by a restless energy, Lexis decided to go out in search of… something…. Of what she was not entirely sure. Lexi’s uncertainty frightened Remi. ‘It’s a What night.’ Remi thought. Remi had no choice but to follow Lexis. Such was the nature of their relationship. 


As quietly as possible both left the house closing the door behind them. The streets were deserted, the city's heartbeat reduced to a murmur. A distant siren echoed through the streets, a reminder that even in the quietest hours, life persisted.


The city, like a tapestry, held stories woven into its streets and buildings. Each corner whispered secrets, the tales of those who had walked these paths before. The night was a canvas painted with stars, a stage where nocturnal creatures performed their unseen symphony. 


A solitary cat prowled along the sidewalk nearby, its eyes reflecting the faint glow of the streetlamp. For a short time before wandering off, it was a companion in their journey through the sleeping neighborhood.


The two, in their wakefulness, became silent and unknowing spectators to this nightly spectacle. Lexis and Remi were far too young to be aware of the magic around them, but they felt it nonetheless. 


At first, the two walked in silence, uncertain where to begin their conversation or what direction it should take. The memories of their previous walks with conversations of shared secrets resurfaced — fragments here and there, occasional echoes of old chats, and the distant laughter and tears of forgotten nights.


“I want to go to the park.” Lexis announced.


“We’re not allowed to cross the street by ourselves.” responded Remi. 


“No, Papa says not to cross the big streets. The park is only 1 block away on a small street.” Lexis argued.


“I’m the oldest and I say we cannot cross the street to the park!” Remi exclaimed.


“I don’t think you are the oldest. I think I am the oldest.” Lexis retorted.


“Don’t you remember what Papa said when the doctor asked us who wanted to come out first?” proclaimed Remi. “I nodded YES and you shook your head NO. That’s what the doctor said when she was doing the Caesar Salad Surgery on Mama.”


“That’s the whole point!” Lexis asserted.”You are the one who ALWAYS says no! Saying yes does not sound like you! It sounds like ME!”


“Whatever” muttered Remi. “I am still the oldest.”


Lexis was silent for a few moments, and then said softly. “I think Mama and Papa want to separate us.” 


They abruptly stopped walking and Remi was silent for almost a minute. “Who told you that?” Remi’s voice broke slightly as she spoke. Of all of the What’s and Whys of their existence, this future What with its’ corresponding Why was the most terrifying.


“I heard Mama on the phone with the doctor yesterday.” mumbled Lexis. “You were sleeping.” ‘That’s why I didn’t know. thought Remi.


“Mama had this medical book called dicey papa-goose or something.” Lexi continued. “It was too hard. I couldn’t read it.”


“Do you want to be separated?” asked Remi. 

“I don’t know…for a while last year, maybe….Lexus looked up abruptly at Remi. “one of us will die, you know!” Lexis looked away. Tears filled her eyes. “I don’t think I could be ….be without you….”


“I know….me too.” started Remi, but then she stopped.  ‘if Mama and Papa want the surgery, then they have chosen. They can be without one of us.’ Remi paused. A searing pain shot through the pit of their stomach. Her mouth was dry. Her lips trembled. She saw the same terror she was feeling, unmasked and mirrored in Lexis’ face. 


‘Be strong.’ She thought. Remi mustered her bravado and turned her face to Lexis. “They will choose you for sure. You know that. You are the good one. The easy one.” Then Remi quipped: “But MAYBE they will choose me. Without you around, I could get some sleep for a change!” Both began to giggle, their faces stained with tears.


“Mama and Papa can’t make us separate if we don’t wan’t to. Can they?” Lexis said it more as a question than a statement.


“Sure they can.” answered Remi. “Remember Jonathan from last April? He didn’t want to have his pee pee cut, but they made him cut it anyway.”


“Then we could run away.” Lexis offered.


“Where are we going to run to? We’re not even allowed to cross the street. ” Remi retorted.


“We could join a circus!” Exclaimed Lexis. "Circus people wouldn’t think we are ugly.” 


“We aren’t ugly, exactly”, corrected Remi. “Just……weird looking…. Besides,” she continued. “Do they even have circuses anymore?”


Two trash cans clashed together in the distance. A dog barked,


“We better get home.” Remi murmured.

************************************* 

The digital clock in the kitchen blinked 4:57 AM in red, casting an otherworldly glow in the darkened room. They crept upstairs to their bedroom as silently as 8-year olds can creep. No one stirred in their parents’ room. Their absence seemed undetected, and they judged their sojourn to be successful.


“I STILL can’t sleep!” Lexis announced in an assertive whisper, refusing to lay down on the bed.


“OK! Fine!” Remi sighed heavily. Her voice carried no enthusiasm or resistance. “I will sit with you by the window until the sun comes up. Bring the blanket on your right.”


Both snuggled into the overstuffed chair.


The city below seemed like a different realm. Streetlights created pools of amber in the quiet streets, and the distant hum of activity echoed now through the alleyways. Alexi's mind wandered, caught between the dreams that eluded them and the reality of the slumbering city.


In the neighboring apartment, a light flickered to life. A silhouette moved behind the curtains, a shadow no longer trying to navigate the night, but negotiating the beginning of a new day instead.


The sky began to shift, a subtle gradient of deep blues and purples heralding the impending dawn. The night owls started to retreat, their time on the stage coming to an end. The world looked different in the hushed moments before sunrise — a transient dreamscape caught between two realities.


Remi slept. Alexis settled back in the chair, watching as the first rays of sunlight painted the sky in hues of pink and gold. She pulled the blanket tighter around Remi’s chin to stave off the morning chill. Remi stirred, murmured something unintelligible, and continue sleeping.


The night had been a refuge. In the pre-dawn calm, Alexis found a sanctuary where time moved differently, and the ordinary transformed into the extraordinary.


As the city fully awoke, and the sun crept over the eastern horizon, Alexis finally felt the weight of exhaustion settling in. The world outside the window transformed into a bustling tableau of daily life, and the quietude of the night retreated like a fading dream. The morning light cast a gentle glow on the room.


Alexis closed her eyes, the remnants of the nocturnal adventure still lingered in her thoughts. Sleep, when it finally came, was accompanied by dreams colored with the magic of a night that had been more than just the absence of daylight. 


It was, perhaps, all the more fitting that the epiphany, when it came, arrived while the girls were sleeping.

************************************* 

“Shall we wake them?” Papa whispered, standing in the door way to the girls’ bedroom. 


“No, let them sleep.” said Mama quietly. the girls were snuggled into the chair with their foreheads touching. Remi was snoring softly.


“Did they go out again last night?” Papa asked.


“Pretty sure they did.” Mama gestured to the end of the bed where shoes, a jacket and two knit caps lay.


Mama gazed long moments at the girls before she unleashed a deep sigh. She turned to Papa, her eyes silently pleading.


Papa returned her gaze: “I know, I know! I feel the same...... I will call Dr Patel when his office opens and cancel the surgery.”



Conjoined twins with two heads and one body, also known as dicephalic parapagus twins, are an extremely rare occurrence. The history of conjoined twins dates back centuries, with various cases documented in medical literature


November 17, 2023 14:16

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